I wanted to incorporate one of my other loves into this website–classic television. My love of classic television was born after I discovered Nick-at-Nite one evening, circa 1995 when I was in the sixth grade. The first show I watched on Nick-at-Nite was I Love Lucy. This ignited my love of Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy. From then on, I had to see every episode of ‘Lucy.’ Later, my love of Lucille Ball led me to TCM to see her films. From watching films with Ball, I ended up discovering a variety of other favorite actors including (but not limited to): Gene Kelly, Katharine Hepburn, Ann Miller and Maureen O’Hara, just to name a few. I Love Lucy also featured a lot of great classic movie stars whom I loved on the show and discovered their films later on TCM. One of the all-time best I Love Lucy guest stars was William Holden. Holden guest starred in my favorite episode– “L.A. at Last!”
After spending two weeks driving across country and making stops at a run-down cafe/hotel near Cincinnati, OH, a brief detour/jail stint in Bent Fork, TN, and a visit with Ethel’s father in Albuquerque, NM, the Ricardos and Mertzes finally make it to Los Angeles, CA. After scoping out their hotel suite in the heart of Hollywood (courtesy of MGM), Ricky makes plans to have lunch alone (i.e. without Lucy) at the studio commissary. To soothe Lucy and the Mertzes’ disappointment, he gives them full use of their car and some money for lunch.
Since they set foot in Hollywood, Lucy and Ethel have been on the hunt for movie stars. Lucy wonders out loud if there’s any place where [the stars] gather in a big herd. Fred jokingly says, “maybe they all gather at the same watering hole.” This gives Lucy an idea and soon they’re off to “the watering hole,” aka The Brown Derby. While in the restaurant, Lucy and Ethel immediately begin gawking and rubbernecking at every celebrity in sight. We hear the restaurant page various unseen celebrities that they have a telephone call: Cary Grant, Walter Pidgeon and Gregory Peck. Fred reminds Ethel that “they’re (the stars) just people like you and me.” “Telephone for Ava Gardner!” says the overhead page at the restaurant. Fred jumps up and Ethel reminds him: “Remember? She’s (Ava Gardner) just people like you and me.” “She may be people, but she’s not like you and me!” Fred hilariously replies.
After an embarrassing interaction with Eve Arden where Ethel asks her if she’s Judy Holliday or Shelley Winters, William Holden is seated into the next booth on the other side of Lucy. Ethel gets Lucy’s attention and soon Lucy is gawking at Holden and making him uncomfortable. He decides to turn the tables on Lucy and stare back. Lucy is very uncomfortable and after a hilarious scene where Ethel cuts Lucy’s spaghetti with her manicuring scissors, Lucy and the Mertzes make a hasty exit–but not before Lucy trips the waiter and the pie on his tray falls on Holden.
Later, we see Ricky trying on costumes, a knight costume, for his new Don Juan picture. He just so happens to meet Holden at the studio and Holden offers to give him a ride home. Knowing Lucy’s love of movie stars and Holden in particular, Ricky asks Holden if he’d be willing to come in and meet Lucy. Holden is only too happy to oblige. Lucy, fearful of being exposed as the one who threw a pie at Holden, tries to disguise her appearance.
The funniest scene of the entire episode is the scene between Lucy with her fake putty nose, Holden and Ricky. Lucy’s nose constantly needs re-shaped and she ends up lighting it on fire. The looks on the men’s faces when Lucy is monkeying around with her nose is the absolute funniest part of the episode. After the jig is up, Holden doesn’t let Ricky know about the shenanigans at the restaurant and tells him that he wanted to ask the waiter “who the beautiful redhead was,” but Lucy ran out before he had a chance. Overwhelmed at Holden’s kind gesture, Lucy plants a kiss on him. “I kissed Bill Holden!” she exclaims.
What I love about this episode, besides the episode itself is how it sets up William Holden for being a big blabbermouth. In multiple episodes, other celebrities mention having heard from Bill Holden about Lucy. I like the idea that Holden is going around town telling everyone about Lucy and how ridiculous she is.